What’s behind the adobe walls of Northern New Mexico? Almost as intriguing are the doors and gates that allow entrance behind those adobe walls. From ornate to functional the entryways display individualism and originality. We find elaborate carvings such as those in the Fechin House and others that seem to have survived years of neglect.
Color adds to the interest and appeal. Blues predominate in many shades and tints. The label Taos Blue is often applied but there seems to be no agreement as to the exact hue.
There are no rules or standards, neon green or cherry red, arched or perfectly squared off, anything goes. These doors and gates lead to public and private gardens, homes, shops, restaurants,galleries, museums, and churches. And, for some we don’t know what’s behind the adobe walls.
Century old traditions continue in Taos Plaza July 20-22, 2012 with Fiestas de Taos. Parades, music, royalty, music, food, music, dance and more music. Opening ceremonies for Fiesta Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe on Friday evening.
Colorfully clad children Parade Saturday morning. Families spread blankets to claim shady spots for the day of kid activities, shopping, entertainment and festival food. A dozen musical groups throughout the day until the Plaza closes at 10pm.
Sunday morning begins with the St. Francis Choir at 9am. The Historical Parade at twelve noon on Sunday brings Taos traffic to a halt.
A historical carousel known as Tio Vivo has been a key part ofFiesta every year since 1939. The only one of it’s kind active in the United States, the 19th-century “Flying Jenny” first arrived in Taos in 1896
The Taos Lions Club maintains the priceless treasure that they feel belongs to the children of Taos. The club covers the large maintenance costs and hours of volunteerism so that children attending Fiesta can enjoy free rides on Tio Vivo .
We joined friends Dolores and Orell for dinner at the Trading Post Cafetonight. Unbeknownst to any of us the Italian restaurant offers Mangia Festa, 3 course meals between 4- 6pm, Tuesday – Thursday for only $12. Such a deal!
The Mangia Festa features a cup of soup of the day, salad and the choice from six pasta entrees or pizza of the day. Pasta offerings include farfallel primavera, pasta bolognese, fettuccine alla carbonara, angel hair pasta with chicken and mushrooms in gorgonzola cream, portabello mushroom raviolis and penne arrabbiata.
Tonight’s soup was a chilled cream of avocado which Bob (surprisingly) really liked. Next was a fresh green salad with creamy Italian dressing. Bob and I both ordered the carbonara, on the advice of local friends, and were not disappointed. Dolores and Orell had the angel hair pasta dish. The servings were not large but the three courses were a very nice balance.
When Bob and I had dinner here on Saturday night we indulged in the marvelous flan. Because I baked a peach and cherry crostada today we bypassed the Trading Post desserts – with regrets.
They have an excellent pastry chef and there are many selections each day. If I’d known we were going to the Trading Post Cafe I would have put off my baking until tomorrow. Although that might not have worked because Bob says he’s going back tomorrow night for round two of Mangia Festa!
Pasturelands once separated the town of Taos and the defensive village of La Plazuela de San Antonio – The Little Plaza of Saint Anthony. Renamed in 1964, La Loma Plaza, a few short blocks from the center of Taos, is designated as a National Historic District. La Loma Plaza sits on a hill west of Taos Plaza.
Spanish families began constructing adobe homes in 1796. The homes connected to each other. Windows and doors faced the interior plaza forming a square fortification to project themselves and their animals from Ute and Comanche Indian raids.
Today the core of many La Loma structures date back to original construction, some even owned by direct descendants of the first settlers. Entering La Loma Plaza, a narrow lane off Valdez Lane passes the diminutive San Antonio de Padua Capilla, circa 1875.
A low stone wall encloses a small flagstone park. Trees shade benches and chairs – a welcoming spot to relax and note architectural details of the surrounding plaza.
Several homes on the quiet plaza are available for vacation rentals. The pink adobe with heart motif gate immediately caught my eye, Casa Pajaro. From Internet research I learn that the interior and much of the furniture has been painted my iconic Taos artist Jim Wagner. Known for bright colors and folksy style, Wagner captures a whimsical view of the Northern New Mexico character. Ever-present, chattering magpies populate many of Wagner’s works.
I would love to see the interior of Casa Pajaro, perhaps it will some day be our vacation rental location. Meanwhile, I have to appreciate historic La Loma Plaza from outside the adobe walls.
Bob started the Stephen Kilborn week-long painting workshop today. VisitArt by Robert Yackelto follow the week’s workshop activities.
My favorite Taos restaurant was tonight’s destination, hard to believe we’d been in town and hadn’t had our first Orlando’s fix. We studied the menu over salsa, chips and guacamole even though I knew before I left Denver what I would order – the shredded beef burrito smothered with green chile with sides of beans and posole.
Bob selected the shredded beef chimichanga. Orlando’s shredded beef is not for the weak of heart or tastebuds – it packs a real punch. So delicious. Smooth flan soothes any lasting zing.
Evening photos were on the agenda after dinner. Stopped by Ed Sandoval’s studio of pictures of his antique trucks.
As the sun set we strolled the historic mabel Dodge Luhan complex, lots of ideas for future paintings. Just as the pigeons flock in to roost for the night we head to the casita. Day is done, gone the sun.
Are we getting old or wise? We did the unthinkable today with a slow paced day in our charming casita. Bob did some sketching, looking for inspiration for the coming week’s workshop. Nancy did some baking, writing and gazing into space.
Stephen Kilborn held an orientation session for workshop participants in the late afternoon at his gallery in Taos. The group shared a bit of the bubbly and an overview of the week ahead.
We join friends for a yearly tradition of dinner at Doc Martin’s in the Taos Inn. At least once during a Taos visit we need to have Doc’s Chile Relleno. The cheese stuffed Anaheim chile is coated in a blue corn beer batter, smothered with traditional green chile, topped with pepitas and goat cheese cream with salsa fresca on the side. I dug in so quickly I didn’t remember to take a photo of the attractive presentation. Maybe next time.
We spend a marvelous summer evening on the patio of the enclosed courtyard listening to Doug Montgomery piano CDs and planning for tomorrow.
As we travel the roads of Northern New Mexico visiting some of the historic adobe churches I’ve started noticing the gateways and doors. Some are finely handcrafted and well maintained while others are simple and barely functional. They all open as welcoming arms and embrace worshipers. Enter here.
Taos Farmers Market is the summer Saturday Morning place to be. Dozens of vendors bring field fresh produce plus a myriad of products from fresh baked scones to hand dyed yarn.
One stroll past the booths and our arms are loaded with triple berry bread, a tall jar of honey, lemon blueberry scones for Sunday breakfast, Rocky Ford cantaloup and a dozen sunflowers worthy of a Van Gogh painting.
Today was Children’s day at the market with a Spanish marionette show, live animals including a couple of friendly alpacas, stilt walking, music and art projects.
After stowing our market purchases at the casita we stop at Country Furnishings of Taos. Seven rooms of an adobe house are packed with hand crafted painted furniture, distinctive home furnishings, jewelry, books and gift items – many by local artisans. We select a pillow by Georgia Page.
The village of Arroyo Seco always draws us for a visit. After all, it is the home of Taos Cow Ice Cream – the best. I feel a pout coming on because they are not currently serving my favorite Pinon Caramel.
Shopping continues at Claire Works. I’ve admired and purchased jewelry by Claire Haye for 15 years and always want to see her latest creations. Bob is now stocked up for the next few gifting occasions.
The most memorable part of our day was meeting the Mayordomo of the La Santisima Trinidad Church. Bob has frequently painted images of the adobe church. We were fascinated by the history and stories the Mayordomo shared. For the first time in 15 years we viewed the interior and appreciated how well taken care of it is. Historic photographs from before the 1990s restoration give a perspective on the work required. Spending time with this special keeper of the church was a definite blessing.
A water workout at the Taos Spa and relaxed Italian dinner atTrading Post Cafe in Ranchos de Taos completed a shopping Saturday.
We spent the day visiting several of the old adobe churches along the High Road to Taos, perhaps an attempted antidote for Friday the 13th.
Photographers frequently focus on the buttresses at the rear of San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos. I’m fond of the detail framing the front doors, especially in morning sunlight. The parishioners lovingly maintain the National Historic Landmark church and garden. While interior pictures are strictly forbidden visitors are welcome to enter for prayers or to sit quietly and admire the carved corbels, front and side altars screens, retablos and statuary.
Just a few miles down SR 518 we find San Juan de Los Lagos. The small adobe chapel in Talpa has received a great deal of restoration in recent years. Bob has painted several versions of the Talpa chapel over the years. We’ve never had the fortune to see the interior, maybe sometime in the future.
Our third stop was Nuestra Señora de La Asuncion – Placita located off SR 75 in Penasco. Colorful door panels and blooming sweet peas add a splash of color to the earthen structure. Local dogs noted our arrival but proved non-threatening.
Detouring a few miles off the High Road route we visited Picuris Pueblo. As with most of the pueblos, visitors should check in at Tribal Headquarters and obtain a camera permit for a modest fee. Originally constructed in 1776, San Lorenzo de Picuris collapsed in 1989 from water damage. Pueblo members rebuilt the church by hand over a period of several years. Today a crew was working on the grounds. We were invited into the sanctuary giving us the opportunity to note details of carved beams and sturdy chair backs in a traditional cloud pattern.
By the time we reached the village of Las Trampas gathering clouds brought the hope for rain but dulled the photographs. Fortunately we’ve visited the stately San Jose de Garcia Church many times and have been able to capture images under clear blue skies. The church is sometimes open but today was not one of those times. The Las Trampas church and village are favorite subjects for Bob’s watercolors.
Chimayo was our final church visits for the day. First we stopped at the Santo Nino Chapel dedicated in honor of children. I remember when this structure seemed more pigeon roost than holy, an extensive renovation has transformed the chapel which is now filled with colorful contemporary art, wood sculptures and hand-carved Spanish Colonial furniture.
El Santuario de Chimayo is sometimes referred to as the Lourdes of America. Pilgrims arrive seeking healing miracles from the sacred red dirt found in a little side room. Walls are covered with testimonies, letters and poems of thanks, crutches, photos, hand carved rosaries and mementos.
When we arrived at Chimayo today nearly a dozen polished police and sheriff’s cars lined the narrow road. Was there a funeral? We soon learned a bit of local culture. This is Espanola Fiesta weekend. By tradition a Torch Run on Friday begins with prayers and blessings at El Santuario and ends eight miles later at Sacred Heart Church in Espanola. The escort vehicles were waiting and Fiesta Royalty in gowns, crowns and sashes were in attendance. “If the runner doesn’t make it we have no fiesta,” we were told.
I can’t leave Chimayo without replenishing my supply of “Holy Chili #1” from Carlos Medina. I add a dash to almost every main dish I prepare and Carlos is always an entertaining visit. We also made a luncheon pilgrimage to Rancho de Chimayo before completing our 120 mile loop trip through the mountains of Northern New Mexico. A perfect Friday the 13th.
Much like holy pilgrims to El Santuario de Chimayo diners pay repeat and reverent visits to a temple of Northern New Mexican cuisine – Ranchos de Chimayo Restaurante. Since 1965 loyal locals and visitors from around the world have journeyed to the century old adobe home for traditional regional dishes.
As always, we found the restaurant busy. Seating is in small rooms in the original home, a sun room and in summer, terraced patios – tables shaded by ancient cottonwoods and large umbrellas.
We relaxed with a fruity sangria, a bowl of fresh guacamole and crisp, salty chips while awaiting our entrees. I couldn’t resist an old favorite, Sopaipilla Relleno – a sopaipilla stuffed with shredded beef (chicken also available), beans and Spanish rice, topped with cheddar cheese, guacamole and a choice of red or green chile.
Bob opted for Combinacion Pequena – shredded beef taco, cheese enchilada, Spanish rice and beans. His enchilada came as “Christmas”, half red and half green chile. A basket of large puffed sopaipillas and honey accompanied the entrees.
Short of licking our plates we couldn’t have enjoy our choices any more. From previous visits we can highly recommend the flan; however this time we felt the need to pass on dessert.
In 2008 Rancho de Chimayo experienced a kitchen fire that closed the restaurant for 14 months. When they reopened patrons found the dining areas as they remembered; major changes were in a new kitchen and the addition of Tienda. The retail room is stocked with salsas, preserves, logo glasses, t-shirts and the popular Rancho de Chimayo Cookbook. They offer an assortment of creatively packaged gift sets, many can be ordered on their website. A miniature Red Flyer wagon filled with jars of salsa captured my attention.
Rancho de Chimayo is located on the High Road to Taos (Santa Fe County Road 98), 27 miles north of Santa Fe. The restaurant is open from 11:30 am to 9:00 pm, from May to October open 7 days a week, November thru April closed on Mondays.
Until this visit I didn’t realize the restaurant opens for breakfast on Saturday and Sunday, 8:30 – 10:30 am. I’ll remember that for our next Rancho de Chimayo pilgrimage.